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Man Seeks God from page 47
world!' chronicling his personal jour-
ney was natural. "I'm an exhibition-
ist" If he experiences something, he
writes about it.
The nurse's question shocked him
out of his spiritual lethargy. "I've
been too busy running away from a
faith I considered at best irrelevant,
and at worst something of an embar-
rassment, like the uncle at family
gatherings who balances wineglasses
on his forehead!' he confesses in his
spiritual travel guide.
"That was me: mildly curious
about God, but not curious enough
to actually do anything about it. A
spiritual voyeur, at best. A hypocrite,
Weiner also had a very personal
question to answer: "How do I want
to raise my daughter?"
So he started "shopping for God:'
First, he read: "Tolstoy and Huxley
and Merton and Heschel and Gandhi.
I read a lot of William James:'
Then the "determined traveler" hit
"I'm not interested in travel for
travel's sake," Weiner says. "I'm inter-
ested in travel for a reason. I need to
get out of my element."
Like to some place like the Bronx
church where he ended up in a con-
"Forgive me, Father!' he said to
the priest behind a partition, "but
I'm not Catholic!'
"'Yes, that's OK: he says!' accord-
ing to Weiner's account, "but his
voice betrays unease:'
"I'm not even Christian. I'm
"That's OK, my son, but ..."
"I have to do the mass now I'm
already late. Can you come back in
half an hour?"
Weiner promises to come back.
"The moment has passer he
writes. "I feel like a failure at con-
fessing, which is something else I
will need to confess, eventually:'
In each spiritual venue, he learned
about other people's faith and chal-
lenged his own lack thereof. From
the Raelians, he learned about joy
("Religion and fun can mix"); from
the Wicca, about the multiplicity
of theological paths ("They have a
diversified portfolio in a way that,
say Jews, don't; if Hashem tanks, has
a bad year, Jews have no recourse;
we're screwed. Not so with Wiccans;
there is always another god").
Along the way he refined his
search. He's been unable to track
down the nurse whose question
spurred his quest, but he came to
realize he was trying to answer "the
wrong question:' The right question:
"Are you headed in a direction?"
"God is not a set of missing car
keys or an exit on the New Jersey
Turnpike he writes. "He is not a des-
tination:" If Weiner did not find God,
he found a way to look for God.
In the end, Weiner investigated
Judaism. He saved the most famil-
iar — which for him had remained
foreign — for last.
"I was born Jewish. That's cer-
tainly my religious heritage, but not
necessarily my God, which is anoth-
er matter altogether!' he writes. His
parents had enrolled him in Hebrew
school because of a "Jewish tradi-
tion — guilt," but he found it "much
less relevant to my life than, say,
"You could say I'm a self-hating
Jew, but that's not quite accurate he
writes. "In order to hate something,
you need to know it, at least to some
extent, and I didn't know enough
about Judaism to hate it:'
Weiner says his time in Safed,
Israel's mystical city up north,
spending Shabbat with the city's
mellow residents — "children of a
less uptight God!' he calls them —
and studying the tenets of Kabbalah
showed him a face of his religion he
had never learned in Hebrew school.
His spiritual flirting days over, he's
settled down with his own brand of
Judaism. He's more comfortable with
it and says he sees it "as something of
value:' And now he is even bringing
some rituals into his home.
"Instead of looking for my God,
I must invent Him!' Weiner writes.
"Not exactly invent. Construct:'
Think IKEA Judaism. "Some
Which is how Judaism is practiced
in the Weiner household. "I now
look forward to the Jewish holidays
at my brother's house he writes.
"When my daughter, now almost 7,
speaks of God, I no longer wince.
I observe the start of the Sabbath,
though not as often as I should. I
meditate, though not very well or for
very long. I say grace before meals,
though sometimes I forget:'
Not long after leaving the
Ethiopian cafe, he would share a
Shabbat meal with his family. Candle
lighting. Kiddush. HaMotzi. "The
whole thing takes 90 seconds!' he
says. "We do the speeded-up version:'
But, Weiner says, he finds
meaning in the level of Judaism
to which his search brought him
"Sometimes!' he says, "what you're
looking for is right under your
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